It’s been two years since the wife and I went kayaking in Wisconsin Dells in the Fall of 2011 and it was such a beautiful trip that we knew we wanted to explore more of the area. In 2011, we kayaked the “Upper Dells”, meaning we kayaked just above the dam in the downtown area. This year, we explored the “Lower Dells” below the dam. Our adventure started by launching in the relatively new Newport Park in Lake Delton.
The park is pretty much just a boat launch and parking spots along with a little bit of a beach and shelters for picnics. For our purposes, it was perfect. We carried our boats from the parking lot and launched from the sandy beach, thus avoiding the launching fees for using the boat launch. As the photos show, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the temperature was perfect for kayaking. (Although I see now that there was a spot on my camera lens in almost all the photos… Grrr!)
Being the Wisconsin Dells area, we weren’t the only ones on the Wisconsin River. We had to share the river with the usually Dells Ducks and the like, but the river was wide enough that they didn’t bother us. Because the shoreline usually only had rock cliffs on one side, the wakes from the boats usually dissipated fairly quickly, unlike when kayaking in the upper Dells.
We opted to start heading south first and then later head north towards the dam, thus we’d be heading back downstream at the end of the day when we were the most tired. One of the first things I noticed was this modern looking cabin (if that’s what you call such a monster sized home). There was a tiny realtor sign on the lawn, so I’m guessing it’s for sale if you’re interested!
Shortly there-after, the incredible sand stone rock cliffs begin. Visiting the area by kayak has got to be the best way to do it, in my opinion, because you can go where you want, when you want, and the kayaks fit in tighter spaces than power boats do. Not all of the houses along the river looked like multi-million dollar mansions. Some of which were built on top of the rocks and therefore had to get pretty creative with finding ways to get river access.
The sign on this odd structure says, “Stream Flow Gauging Station”. I can only assume that if you are ever on the river and you can’t see this concrete tower, you had better not be on the river!
Needless to say, this part of the Wisconsin River offers scenery you aren’t likely to see very often in Wisconsin or even the United States for that matter. I’m thankful that I live within a few hours of this area so my wife and I can come and visit it in a moment’s notice.
Try and fit your Dells Duck through here!
I was hoping that an Amtrak would’ve gone through while we were heading south as the old Milwaukee Road Hiawatha rail line is on the top of the East cliffs (About where the electrical poles are in the photo below). Unfortunately, the train’s schedule and ours weren’t in-sync.
After spending a lot of time tooling around the mini islands and rock formations to the south, we headed north to get to the dam. It’s a good thing that we went in the Fall when the water levels were down because the current near the dam was very fast even with little water coming through. Both my wife and I struggled to get past the strong current to a small bay area where we brought our boats on shore and made friend with some very friendly female Mallard ducks. To the left, you can see the ramp for another boat launch that some use for launching kayaks, but I don’t recommend starting so close to the dam. If you go down stream and then discover you can’t fight the swift current from the dam while trying to get back… well, you won’t get back!
I don’t know how old the dam is, but the power station building is in nice shape. I’ve grown to really appreciate architecture from the turn of the last century. Even public utility buildings, such as this power house, featured tall, arched-top windows and ornate brickwork… all things we can’t even afford to do these days even if we wanted to.
The sun was starting to hide behind the trees as we headed back south, but there was still a nice surprise waiting for us in the shadows. It’s times like this that I wish I had the gazillion dollar bird lens. In the shot below, we were sitting in the river at the bottom of the tree that this Bald Eagle was perched in, but that was still too far away for a nice close-up ‘money shot’. We did get to see this eagle snatch a fish out of the river and eat it in the tree tops. There’s no doubt in my mind why these birds are our national symbol.
When we were nearly back to Newport Park, we opted to sneak into the narrow channel where we kept seeing the Dells Ducks come through. This small creek connections Lake Delton to the Wisconsin River as it passes under the road. The creek is too shallow, too narrow, and too rocky to make it to Lake Delton.
Being one of our first longer adventures with our new Wilderness Systems Aspire kayaks, we realized that the seats in these new boats are really nice compared to the seats in our old boats. I normally have lower back pain within a 1/2 hour of a kayak trip and always figured that was just part of the experience or due to my inflexibility. However, my back never got sore on this trip even though we only got out of the boat one time over the several hours were were on the river.
Every good kayak trip should be followed-up by a good dinner. Being a Sunday night in the Fall, that meant that the Wisconsin Dells was a ghost town when we were looking for some place to eat. That was good for us because that meant no waiting in line to eat just about where ever we wanted. We originally planned on eating at the Moosejaw Pizza & Dells Brewing Company because we enjoyed it last time we were in the area, but opted for the Sprecher Restaurant & Pub as we didn’t even know it existed until we drove by. Being the teetotaler that I am, I ordered a Puma Kola soda, but the wifey couldn’t pass-up a sampler of what Sprecher is known for.
The Garden Pesto Pasta and Brew Pub Meat Loaf filled the empty voids in our stomachs with flavor. However, we somehow managed to find much of our meals in take-home containers and that enabled us to have enough room left over to finish off a large piece of carrot cake… yum!
I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that the nice Fall weather only lasts a few short weeks. My wife and I just love adventures like this one and part of me wants to do this all the time (which isn’t practical since the Wisconsin Dells is typically a zoo most of the summer). However, by only being able to enjoy this area once in a while, one has to really appreciate while your there and know that it’ll be waiting for you went the first hints of Fall reveal themselves again.